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Los Angeles Business Litigation Lawyer | American Indian Groups Hope to ‘Hail Victory’ in Trademark Battle with Washington Redskins

  • By: Robert Klein

WRC-TV news anchor Jim Vance provided some on air commentary regarding the long controversial name of the Washington Redskins. Vance has received numerous honors and awards since joining WRC in 1969, but the opposition to the name and logo of that market’s football team likely predates Vance’s arrival at the Washington DC NBC affiliate. Vance says in the video how the term Redskin falls into a category of “pejoratives of the first order—the worst order—specifically intended to injure,” and describes how he made the decision to avoid using the term on the air. He says there was not a single question or complaint from viewers after he went nearly a year without mentioning the name, saying that people just assumed he used it and the experiment signified how much the word has become a part of the “DC culture.” “That notwithstanding, the name sucks,” Vance says. “We need to get rid of it.”

For many years, fans and representatives of the team have argued that the name is intended to honor American Indians, although many native groups have called such claims dubious. Robert Holden, deputy director of the director of the National Congress of American Indians, took issue with that defense and said, “Honors like that we don’t need.” His comment came during a daylong symposium entitled “Racist Stereotypes and Cultural Appropriation in American Sports” held at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian on February 7.

This issue is now facing possible Congressional action, as Eni Faleomavaega, the non-voting delegate to the US House of Representatives from American Samoa’s at-large congressional district, recently introduced a bill entitled the Non-Disparagement of American Indians in Trademark Registrations Act of 2013. It would amend the Trademark Act of 1946 to prohibit the registration of the word Redskins. The action came after a March 7 federal trademark hearing before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board of the US Patent and Trademark Office in which a group of five Native American petitioners sought to show that the name “Redskins” was disparaging to a significant population of American Indians.

The Associated Press reported that it could be a year before the three-judge panel on the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board issues a ruling on whether the term Redskins should be considered a slur and, thus, unworthy of trademark protection. While the bill authored by Faleomavaega would not alone force the football team to change its name, it would make it more difficult for the organization to prevent others from selling goods that use the franchise’s name. The Washington Post noted, “There is no guarantee that the measure will even receive a committee hearing in the House, much less a vote.”

The issue certainly involves passionate opinions on both sides, and it will be interesting to see how the case continues to develop. Additional information about trademark infringement is available on our website. If you are seeking legal representation in your own trademark issue, you can contact our firm at (323) 405-1002 or enter your information in the form on this page to let our Los Angeles trademark infringement lawyer review your case.

Klein Trial Lawyers – Los Angeles business litigation attorneys

Robert Klein

About the Author Attorney Robert Klein is a former CPA and known for
finding creative solutions to complex business lawsuits.